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21 October 2014 @ 09:27 pm
Gough Whitlam died today.  
Parliament was suspended, as a mark of respect to the passing of a great man.

Australia was a very different place in the 1960s and early 1970s. Our young men were fighting in Vietnam, not only regular army but also conscripts, chosen by ballot on their 19th birthdays. We had no national health care system to speak of, voting age was 21, and a university education cost a bomb. Divorce involved a trip to court where fault had to be established, and our White Australia policy restricted immigration from non-European citizens.

Then in 1972 this started to change, with the election of a Labor Party government led by Gough Whitlam. He abolished conscription and brought our soldiers home, lowered the voting age, introduced no-fault divorce, scrapped the White Australia policy and university fees. And most importantly, he gave us Medibank - our version of the NHS - and introduced compulsory superannuation.

These last two were scrapped by the next Liberal government, only to be re-introduced by Labor ten years later. University remained free until 1989 when a fee system was slowly brought back in (and current legislation pending would have the effect of increasing fees dramatically).

In addition, the Labor government of 1972 - 1975 helped dissipate the "cultural cringe" that made us feel that "local" was inferior, whether it was tv programs, cars, art or wine, and caused so many of our best and brightest to leave the country - people like Germaine Greer, Barry Humphries, Clive James etc who left Australia for the UK, seeking validation rather than diffidence.

So I feel a little bit saddened by Gough's passing, at age 98 today.

Looking for a photo and while there are better ones of him, I loved this one taken on the night of his election to the prime ministership; the pure exaltation he shows; the little smirk on wife Margaret's face; and the lairy shirt in the background!
 photo goughelection_zps0a356d30.jpg
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Strike while the irony is hot: [EMO] SADdraycevixen on October 21st, 2014 12:47 pm (UTC)

Talk about having made a difference in the world.
miwahnimiwahni on October 22nd, 2014 11:41 am (UTC)
He certainly made a difference in my part of the world. Add to the above Land Rights for aboriginals, a move towards gender equality in work and pay (still not quite there) and the establishment of an Arts council, and more.
byslantedlight: Magic-Comet (magicfly-icons)byslantedlight on October 21st, 2014 01:58 pm (UTC)
I don't remember much about Gough Whitlam except that he was succeeded by Malcolm Fraser and then Bob Hawke, both of whom I do remember - I guess it was my becoming-aware years! I did know he was controversial at the time (in that being-attacked way that is controversy in politics), but despite it all he did alot of good for Australia and people in general... good on him!
miwahnimiwahni on October 22nd, 2014 11:43 am (UTC)
If by "controversial" you mean "the only prime minister / government to be sacked by the Governor General" then yes, that's the word *g*. They had a few missteps along the way, but on the whole dragged us kicking and screaming out of the shadows of Colonialism and into a proud nation in our own right.
Trepkostrepkos on October 21st, 2014 04:45 pm (UTC)
Where have the 70s gone ... it's like we've regressed.
miwahnimiwahni on October 22nd, 2014 11:44 am (UTC)
It's the old saying, isn't it - the more things change... some of the things his government introduced were rapidly repealed by the next conservative government but in other areas he made lasting change.
*sigh* I have so much family history tied up in the politics of that time, it still seems quite recent to me.
a honeyed wine at night: slow loris meadmoonlightmead on October 22nd, 2014 01:58 pm (UTC)
Three different deaths mentioned in my friends' pages on LJ yesterday, and all of them of people who made a difference to my friends. Thank you for this. I don't think I really knew about any of what you describe - I knew, if I thought about it, that you (er, the country, not you yourself...) were in Vietnam, and I knew about the white Australia policy, but that's it. Had no idea about the divorce laws or the health care system, or university funding and although I have heard about the land rights, I certainly had no idea who was involved in bringing that about.

Wow, he made a difference!
miwahni: Aussie Aussie Aussiemiwahni on October 23rd, 2014 11:12 am (UTC)
I'm sorry your flist was such a gloomy place yesterday.
Gough Whitlam certainly left a lasting legacy that few other politicians can match.